Why Do You Want To Be Ordained?

His Holiness the Dalai Lama"Pure life’ refers to the life of a monastic order, the life of an ordained monk. This is in keeping with the example of the master, Buddha himself. In Buddha’s own life, he grew up initially as a Prince in a kingdom, showered with all the luxuries of princely existence, but he gave up all of these and cultivated detachment and sought the life of an ordained practitioner. As the Tibetan expression goes: "the teacher’s example of the past must be followed by the disciples of the future." However, this is not to suggest that in order to attain true liberation or nirvana, it is indispensable for everyone to become a celibate and join the ordained life. However there is an understanding that an ordained life is the best, most suitable circumstances or framework within which one can make spiritual progress and work towards the attainment of liberation from samsara.

The text states that the whole purpose of joining the ordained life is to engage in the practice of Dharma. So the core activity - the task of an ordained member - is to engage in studies and engage in the practices. Such practices as single pointed meditation require grounding and some understanding; otherwise there is nothing to practice. So what we require is to first cultivate deep learning and understanding. Then that understanding needs to be implemented through single pointed practice. In other words, the task of an ordained member is to engage in all the activities such as teaching, studying, writing, composition, and so on, so that you uphold the precious Dharma."

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Extracted from teachings on The Prayer of the Virtuous Beginning, Middle and End, Pasadena, California, 12 - 14 Oct 1999. Transcribed by Ven Tenzin Tsomo and edited by Thubten Jinpa. Reprinted in Sangha Magazine, 2002, as “Renunciation and the Ordained Life.”


Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron"It is especially meritorious to take ordination in the present era, this age of the five degenerations. We can see a decline in religious values now in many parts of the world and this makes it so much more difficult to keep a religious mind and maintain a proper practice. It is said that the amount of merit accumulated in a single day by a person who simply takes the first step of "going forth" from the householder’s life in the present age, when the obstacles and temptations are greater, will far exceed the merit of a person who maintained an extensive and faultless practice during the Buddha’s time. And this merit would be even greater if one took ordination in an outlying land, where even to meet another Buddhist monk or nun would be quite rare. All of this is true because at the present time, the influences, which work against a proper and pure religious way of life, are so much stronger. It is like driving in a very busy and crowded city, surrounded by reckless drivers with traffic whizzing in all directions, as compared to driving on a vast, empty, smooth plain – even I could drive on such an empty plain – where nobody would call it difficult. But in the bustling traffic of a city, one has to be a skillful driver even to go a short distance. So, I think there is great merit to put aside worldly involvement in this day and age and "go forth" as an ordained person. It is one of the most important and beneficial things we can do with our lives."

"When we reflect deeply on the disadvantages of cyclic existence, the determination to free ourselves from it and to attain liberation arises in our mind. The method to do that is to practice the Three Higher Trainings: ethics, concentration, and wisdom. To develop the wisdom that liberates us from cyclic existence, we must be able to concentrate. Otherwise we will not be able to meditate on emptiness in a sustained manner. Developing concentration requires us to subdue the manifest disturbing attitudes in our mind. A firm foundation for doing this is created by pacifying our gross verbal and physical actions motivated by these disturbing attitudes. Ethics – living according to precepts – is the method to harmonize our physical and verbal actions, and thus to subdue the gross disturbing attitudes…"

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron


"As a householder, we must do many things for the sake of our family. We easily find ourselves in situations where we must create negative karma by lying or cheating. We are surrounded by distractions: the media, our career, and social obligations. It is easy for disturbing attitudes to arise and more difficult to accumulate positive potential because our lives are so busy with other things…. As a monastic, we have more freedom from such distractions and difficulties. On the other hand, we also have great responsibility. We have decided to be more aware and not to act according to whatever impulse arises in our minds. Initially this may appear as a lack of freedom, but in fact such awareness frees us from our bad habits and the difficulties they create. We have voluntarily chosen to keep precepts, and so we must slow down, be aware of our actions, and choose what we do and say wisely."

Bhikshuni Tenzin Kacho
From “The Benefits and Motivation for Monastic Ordination” in Preparing for Ordination: Reflections for Westerners Considering Ordination in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition,” ed. Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron

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